Distancing Together: Caregiving During the Pandemic

-By Pam Leonard, LBSW, CDP, CJFS CARES Program Director 

The world as we know it has changed.  The things we could rely on for support are no longer in place.  Each day brings a new change or restriction, and we are forced into social isolation.  There are so many unknowns about what will happen next. If you’re a dementia caregiver, it may remind you of the same losses you have experienced since your loved one received their dementia diagnosis. 

You may now be wondering how you will navigate the coming days, possibly without the support of family members, respite programs or paid caregivers. Here are a few tips:

-Remember, you cannot expect to provide the exact same care today that you were able to provide before this crisis. You may feel guilty that, while you are meeting your loved one’s basic needs, you are no longer able to provide the stimulating activities or meaningful connections that were available before. In reality, everything you are doing with your loved one is stimulating and is a connection. Setting aside a few times each day to walk together, engage in conversation over a meal, sing together or just remind your loved one that they are loved and important to you may be enough to elevate their mood -- and yours.

-As always, remember to take care of yourself. Many mental health professionals are now providing remote sessions by phone or videoconference. An online yoga or exercise video can help relieve stress. It is fine to allow your loved one to sleep a little longer than you normally would, or to watch TV for longer than normal.  Take this time to complete your necessary tasks or do what nourishes you – reading a book, calling a friend, enjoying a hobby.  

-Ask for help. It is important to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing – but you can still ask friends and family to leave items on your doorstep or porch. Say yes to a friend who wants to deliver food, medicine or other supplies in this way. Many local restaurants, stores and pharmacies are now offering delivery. This approach will keep you safe, limit your exposure and lighten your to-do-list.

We keep our hope in knowing that things will return to what we knew before.  When they do, if you find that your newly discovered coping mechanisms help you alleviate your daily stress and increase your level of happiness, I challenge you to hang on to them.  

-Contributed by Pam Leonard, CJFS CARES Program Director